Greetings and thanks for the kind welcome! I've rustled around these parts for a bit, posting messages here and there. JavaRanch gets a special plug in Agile Java--it's the best place I've seen on the web for getting help on Java.
Here's the plug: Agile Java is a book that teaches you how to program in Java using the technique of test-driven development (TDD). It doesn't assume you know anything about Java, object-oriented development, or TDD. TDD is a cool technique that I believe speeds up your learning process. In Agile Java, you'll learn how to create clean and easily maintainable programs. TDD doesn't go away once you move from the academic/learning world to the professional arena, either--many development shops are heavily into TDD, and it's always a technique you can use on your own for greater benefit.